Danny, which was named 2015's first Atlantic hurricane on Thursday, became a major hurricane Friday, boasting maximum sustained winds of 115 mph as it moved slowly about 900 miles east of the Leeward Islands, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).
But NHC expected Danny, now a Category 3 hurricane, to weaken late in the day as the storm moves into an area of unfavorable upper-level winds.
Hurricane Danny was moving west-northwest at just 10 mph toward the Leeward Islands Friday afternoon, and its center wasn't expected to reach the islands until Monday morning. It's current track would take it near Puerto Rico early next week, but NHC warned that errors in storm tracks four to five days in advance average 150-200 nautical miles.
"The small, compact nature of Danny makes it a challenging storm to forecast as it can ramp up quickly, then weaken in a matter of hours," said AccuWeather.com forecaster Dan Kottlowski said. Kottlowski expects Danny to continue to move in a general west-northwest direction through next week, which would take the storm across the northern islands of the Caribbean. "We have a concern that Danny may skip just north of the Antilles next week," he said. "If this happens, there would not be as many reasons for the system to weaken and the chance of the system getting closer to the United States mainland would increase."
NHC on Friday afternoon was also tracking two other disturbances in the Atlantic. A broad non-tropical area of low pressure a couple of hundred miles south of Bermuda was interacting with an upper-level low, producing a large area of showers and thunderstorms, and was given a 50% chance of cyclone formation within the next five days. "Environmental conditions could support some tropical or subtropical development while this system moves slowly northward over the western Atlantic Ocean through this weekend," NHC said. A tropical wave just off the west coast of Africa was given a 30% chance of cyclone formation over the next five days.
A powerful El Nino event in the Pacific Ocean could be part of the cause for increased tropical activity in the Atlantic (see Daily GPI, Aug. 13).
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has said there is a 90% chance that this year's hurricane season will be below normal, with a 70% chance for six to 10 named storms, of which one to four could become hurricanes and zero to one could become major hurricanes (see Daily GPI, Aug. 6). The reduced tropical activity is linked to El Nino, NOAA said.
Earlier this summer, AccuWeather forecasters said the El Nino could bring some drought relief to California and milder winters to the northern United States and Canada (see Daily GPI, July 13). And MDA Weather Services has said a strengthening El Nino event could bring some bad news for the natural gas industry in the form of a warmer-than-normal winter across the northern tier of the United States (see Daily GPI, July 22).
So far, the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season has been a quiet one, with only three named storms prior to Danny. Ana, Bill and Claudette all formed since the season began June 1, but none achieved hurricane status.
Natural gas traders appear to have already injected into prices some storm premium related to Hurricane Danny (see Daily GPI, Aug. 21). But a combination of only minor hurricane damage to North American energy interests in recent years, the growing relative strength of U.S. onshore production, and Danny's slow approach to the Caribbean appears to be calming trading fears.